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    That a supplementary sum, not exceeding £3,773,575,000, be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to defray the charges for civil services which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March 2000, as set out in HC 4 of Session 1999-2000.



    That a sum, not exceeding £101,653,019,000, be granted toHer Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for civil and defence services in Classes I and II; Class III Votes 1 to 5 and Votes 7 to 12; Classes IV to XII; Classes XIV to XVIII; and Classes XVIII, A and XVIII, B for the year ending on 31st March 2001, as set out in HC 5, 6 and 7 of Session 1999-2000.

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    That a Bill be brought in on the foregoing resolutions: And that the Chairman of Ways and Means, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Andrew Smith, Dawn Primarolo, Miss Melanie Johnson and Mr. Stephen Timms do prepare and bring it in.


Mr. Stephen Timms accordingly presented a Bill to apply certain sums out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the years ending on 31 March 2000 and 2001: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time this day, and to be printed [Bill 32].


Order for Second Reading read.

Question, That the Bill be now read a Second time, put forthwith, pursuant to Order [14 December] and Standing Order No. 56 (Consolidated Fund Bills), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Legal Aid and Advice

Question agreed to.

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Dangerous Driving (Sentences)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mrs. McGuire.]

7.2 pm

Mr. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham): I am pleased to have secured this debate. The case that I am about to recount was instigated by the poignant and completely unnecessary death of a young police officer in my constituency in April, but the injustice that it represents will be familiar to many hon. Members in constituencies throughout the country.

Last year, I secured an Adjournment debate on death on the roads in my constituency, but that concerned accidents on a dangerous stretch of the A27 between Lancing and Worthing, whereas what occurred last April was entirely avoidable: the tragic death of a police officer at the hands of a convicted felon, driving recklessly and dangerously.

Just before midnight on the evening of Saturday 24 April, PC Jeff Tooley, aged 26, a police officer based at Shoreham and living in my constituency, was carrying out his duty perfectly properly, manning a speed check on the Brighton road. He was wearing a highly visible fluorescent uniform and holding a torch. In no way could he be described as the author of his own misfortune. He moved out to stop a white Renault van clocked at 51 mph in a 30 mph zone; but the van did not stop or decrease its speed. Subsequently, it hit him, lifting him off the ground and depositing his body about 70 ft further along the road, before speeding off.

It was claimed that the 48-year-old driver of the van, from Brighton, had been drinking and fell asleep at the wheel, but subsequently the van was found burned out in nearby Hove: hardly the act of a driver suffering from tiredness and drunkenness. Some 12 hours after the incident, PC Jeff Tooley succumbed to his injuries and died in Worthing hospital. I am grateful for the comments of the Minister at the time, who paid tribute to PC Tooley when I raised the case on the Monday immediately after that tragic event.

The case gained a high profile because the victim was a police officer doing his duty. However, the circumstances and subsequent judicial procedures should be viewed no less seriously than if it had been a pedestrian hit by the van while crossing the road on his or her way home.

PC Tooley is said to be the first serving police officer in the Sussex constabulary to have lost his life in the line of duty. His family and his colleagues at Shoreham police station and throughout the Sussex force were understandably devastated. At a packed funeral in Chichester cathedral, which I attended, seasoned and long-serving police officers, including the chief constable himself were reduced to tears. Jeff Tooley was greatly liked in his force. He was described as an experienced, committed and highly motivated officer. He had held a burning ambition to become a police officer and joined the force in 1990. He had an exemplary record and a promising career ahead of him. At his funeral, an epitaph to Constable CT483 read simply,

The waste of such a promising young life, with so much to live for, was distressing enough, but the grief felt by family and friends has been compounded by the

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subsequent shortcomings of the justice system in dealing with the driver who caused PC Tooley's death. His family were also especially distressed that his organs could not be used to save the life of another, because the guilty party fled the scene of the crime and PC Tooley's body had to be made available for legal reasons.

Three days after Jeff Tooley's death, the killer turned himself in, although by that stage the police were well aware of his identity. At the subsequent hearing, he denied causing death by dangerous driving and performing an act intended to pervert the course of justice--setting fire to the van--and pleaded not guilty. However, on 11 November before the case came to court, the killer changed his plea to guilty. Subsequently, he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

The maximum penalty available to the sentencing judge was just 10 years, and he was obliged to reduce that because of the 11th-hour change of plea to guilty. Indeed, up to 1993, the maximum penalty was just five years. After time spent on remand is taken into account, the killer will be eligible for parole in just three years. That is despite the fact that he has a long criminal record, stretching back to 1966, including a seven-year prison sentence in the 1970s for attempted robbery and eight years in the 1980s for robbery.

The comments of the sentencing judge struck a chord with many people who followed the case. Judge Anthony Thorpe at Chichester crown court said:

I agree, as do the many hon. Members--of all parties, and from Sussex and the rest of the country--who have signed my early-day motion on the subject.

If that criminal had stolen PC Tooley's car that night, or broken into his home but left him unscathed, he would have faced a sentence of up to 14 years' imprisonment, instead of a maximum of 10. Patently, there is a grave inconsistency in our legal system's treatment of dangerous driving offences. It is increasingly perceived to be unfair and to undermine the seriousness with which that crime is taken and prosecuted. This case has shown that clearly and that is why we believe that the courts should have available the possibility of imposing a life sentence on the worst cases of death by dangerous driving. This case would appear to qualify as just such a one.

My view is born not out of some knee-jerk wish to seek revenge but out of a desire to ensure that dangerous driving is taken far more seriously as the life-threatening act that it can be, and to ensure that the severity of the penalties available act as a real deterrent and highlight the unacceptability of dangerous driving which, in the extreme, can lead to an innocent person's death. The killer may well not have set out to cause the death of a policeman on that night but, despite the lack of obvious intent, someone who spends an evening drinking heavily in a pub and then speeds home on a dangerous stretch of road at 51 mph should be no less responsible for his actions and the result of his recklessness than if he had set out to cause the death with intent. A motor vehicle in irresponsible hands is a lethal weapon--no less potent than a gun or a knife. In this day and age, citizens who qualify to drive and exercise that right should be fully responsible for the effects of exercising that right.

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Let us consider the statistics. Between 1993 and 1996, the average penalty for death by dangerous driving was just 33.7 months. That compares, over the same period, with the average penalty for manslaughter of 62 months. Between 1993 and 1996, there were 1,989 convictions for the charge of death by dangerous driving, but only 47 of those cases were given terms of imprisonment of five years or more. In fact, the terms had been rising, but fell back in 1996.

More recently in 1997, 205 people were convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, but the average sentence for the 125 of them convicted in Crown courts was again just 33 months.

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